Many in our industry would agree that we desperately need an influx of youth and new talent in the insurance business. Statistics suggest that as much as 50% of the insurance industry may be retiring within the next 10 years. Therefore—and assuming that we have not waited too long—now is the time to get the word out on what a great career path the insurance industry can be.
At the same time, there’s a hurdle that we have to surpass in grabbing some of the new talent graduating from America’s universities. As a part-time instructor at the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University where I have the pleasure of teaching a business insurance class each fall semester, I was asked to make a presentation to a couple of primarily freshmen classes new to the business school. This particular class oftentimes includes an outside speaker who describes a particular sector of the business community and available career paths to pursue.
I was delighted to have this opportunity, as I had wanted the chance to speak to students early in their business school experience whom I might influence to pursue a major in risk management and insurance. There were about 250 students in each of the two classes. I began my presentation with two rather simple questions, and I asked the students to be exceedingly honest in their responses.
By a show of uplifted hands, I asked the students to indicate if they had a favorable impression of the insurance industry. When only about six out of 250 students raised their hand in the first class, I just assumed that the students were not very engaged in the class. I then asked the students if they had an unfavorable impression of the insurance industry. That’s when I learned that they were well tuned-in to my presentation. Approximately 244 students raised their hands. This obviously caught my attention. And interestingly enough, the numbers of hands lifted for each of the two questions was almost identical in my presentation to the second class.
Based on the students’ reaction, I was especially pleased to then have the opportunity to explain to the students the tremendous opportunities that awaited them within the insurance industry. From my own personal experience, I very carefully explained why an insurance career could be extremely challenging, most interesting and terribly rewarding. We all have our own story that’s worth sharing. Right? Even though I can’t say that I saw tears of joy and acceptance in the eyes of any students in attendance after my talk, I will admit that I at least hope many more students had a more favorable impression of our industry when I left the auditorium than when I entered.
After I made my 10-minute presentation, students had the opportunity to text message questions to the instructor who then presented them to me during the Q&A time. One of the questions was is there any way to begin an insurance career without first having to sell insurance door-to-door? This question in and of itself obviously identifies the work that we have in front of us if we are to win more talented young people into our industry.
What in the world can we do to better get the word out about what an outstanding career the insurance industry can offer today’s talented young people? Recently I became aware of InVEST, a 501(c)3 nonprofit founded by IIABA. InVEST works with high schools and colleges to encourage educators to incorporate insurance into the classroom. Their mission is twofold: improve student knowledge of the coverage they will purchase as an adult; and attract new talent to the insurance industry. InVEST offers free classroom materials and works with schools in 41 states. The organization encourages insurance professionals to volunteer in the classroom to help explain the nuances of insurance and to also enlighten students about the different careers within the industry. What a perfect fit.
InVEST already has relationships with the schools it works with. All we need to do is guest speak and connect with students. InVEST also has resources to help agencies start internships so students can have the hands-on experience of working in the industry. I encourage you to visit www.investprogram.org; the interactive map feature will show you if there is an InVEST school located near you. If there isn’t a near-by school, don’t despair. The organization can walk you through the steps to contact either a local high school or college to get a program started. It is easy, and InVEST started more than 50 new programs last year. Get involved today and share the successes of your insurance career and why young people too should consider insurance as a career choice. We desperately need more young people in our industry, and it is imperative that we get the word out.
Wes Bailey (email@example.com) is president of Bailey Insurance & Risk Management in Waco, Texas.